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Health & Parenting

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Social Media: What Parents Must Know

Setting Ground Rules

Write a contract for your child about how they behave on social media. Outline consequences: "If you take away a 16-year-old's cell phone, it's worse than taking away his car," Edgington says.

Remind your child that social rules apply online, Knorr says.

Explain that it comes down to how she wants to portray herself to the world, and that once something is online, it's hard to make it go away. "Everything your child posts is about his image and brand because it's going to be there forever," Edgington says. Colleges and employers check social networking sites and do Google searches on applicants.

Though the concept of long-term consequences may not click with your child right away, keep reinforcing it.

Checking In

Spot-check your child's account and see what she's up to: what she's posting, who her friends are, and who she's following.

Figuring out how to do that can be touchy. When your child is 13, you can insist on having her password, says Edgington. However, an older teen might see that as an invasion of her privacy. Still, you are the parent.

If you're Facebook "friends" with your child, you can keep tabs on what's going on, but check with her to see if it's OK before friending her (and promise never to post on her page). Be aware that this can give you a false sense of security, since most teens are pretty savvy about blocking parents from seeing what they don't want them to see.

Some teens who know their parents are checking on them set up an alternate account. If you don't see much activity or many friends on her page, that might be the case. Set up a Google alert with your child's name so that if anything about her hits the Internet, you know about it immediately, Edgington says.

"You're the best judge of your kid," Knorr says. "If you think you have a kid who engages in risky behavior and can't be trusted, you'll have to police her online activities more closely."

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